Friday, July 20, 2012

3 Guys, 3 New Personal Best- CBBT 7-14-12

 I hadn't been able to make it out to the 1st Island yet this year, and the reports of drag stripping Sheepshead and Spadefish had me itching to get out there, so when my schedule and the weather finally matched up Saturday I was excited to get out there and bend a rod. The plan was for me, and my sidekick Alex, to meet William Ragulsky at Ocean's East II just before sunrise and hit the water early, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, it was hours later before hit the water around 10:30. The bay was flat calm when we arrived on Chicks Beach to launch. After rigging our rods and making sure we had everything  ready to go, we paddled out with high hopes and an overwhelming feeling of optimism.

      It was a leisurely paddle out, and were worked various pilings that had been productive in the past, as we made our way out to deeper water. Although we had a few bites, nobody hooked up and we decided to switch gears and start looking for Spades as the current was starting to slow. The water clarity was pretty good with visibility at about 6 feet, but I wasn't seeing any fish on the pilings. Not to be discouraged, I picked out a set and dropped my line down just far enough that I couldn't see it. As I paddled one handed keeping myself in the eddy, my rod suddenly doubled over- I never felt the bite, it just bent over and started screaming!

 Immediately I was amazed at the power of this fish as I back paddled to get away from the structure covered in razor sharp barnacles, fearing he would break me off. I tightened the drag down ever so slightly and was glad I had a quality rod and reel with a super smooth drag.  After a vicious few minutes of fighting, the fish surfaced and I was elated as I swung it into the boat letting out a "WooHoo! F@ck Yeah!
                                                                        Personal Best Spade @ 17"

     As quickly as I could I got back in position and dropped again hoping to find another fish of the same quality, but got no love, so I switched to another piling in the same group and it wasn't long before I had another solid bite and set the hook into another BIG Spadefish. Again the rod doubled over and the fish began to strip line from the reel. At one point my rod, a heavy power/mod-fast action TICA, was doubled over and was bent down to the foregrip of the handle. I was worried my rod might actually break and I knew this was another GOOD fish and felt stronger than the first. Just as I though he had given in and was coming up, he went on one last drag screaming run and suddenly my rod straightened and the fish was gone. I brought up my line expecting to see my leader broken, but to my surprise I found my hook stretched open slightly and the fishes upper lip still stuck on hook, bone and all! That one really didn't want to come out of the water and was willing to tear his face off to make sure it didn't happen... Damn.

     Alex was next to hook up, but it was much smaller around 8". Nevertheless he was stoked to have his first Spade and went right back to work looking for another. Billy came over and we were all three fishing the same set of pilings hoping to find another reel burner. A few more small fish were landed before Billy hooked into a good one and worked it to the surface.
                                                                       Billy's Personal Best @ 15.5"

     The weather was starting to change as the south winds churned up thunderstorms and began to pick up creating a decent chop. Billy got a call from a friend fishing Lynnhaven telling us to make our way in cause the weather was getting bad over there, and we could see rain falling with thunder and the occasional flash of lightning over Oceanview, so we began our paddle back in. We weren't the only ones making a break for shore and ran into Rob Choi, Richie Bekolay, Matt Anderson, and Joe Underwood(PhillyJoe).

     We decided to make a couple drops for Sheepshead on the way in and stopped at a productive set of pilings. I made my first drop and almost immediately felt the distinctive bite of a Sheepshead and drove the hook home. This fish was heavier than any I had caught previously and no matter how hard I back paddled, he continued to drag me back towards the pilings. I finally made my way to open water, and my heart jumped into my throat when the fish surfaced and I realized this might be my first citation. He rolled on his side but I couldn't get my hand on the leader and sweep him into the boat in time before he made another run to the bottom. About half way there, my rod straighted out and again the fish was gone... This time I let out a tirade of expletives, while kicking and pounding on my kayak like a young child. Alex and Billy couldn't help but laugh at me, no matter how bad they felt for me.

     I needed a minute to collect myself and take a smoke break so I told Alex to fish that piling for a minute and Billy moved down a ways to fish. It didn't take long for Alex to get a feel for the Sheepshead's bite, and before long he was bowed up. He did a great job keeping the fish out of the structure, and leg scooped his prize into the kayak like he had done it a thousand times.

                                                                       Alex's first Sheepshead @ 21"

     After getting pictures and releasing the fish to grow larger and breed, we knew we had to get off the water before the storms caught up to us. We paddled over to Billy to find he had caught a smaller Sheepshead around 18" I believe. We made our way to shore just as it began to rain, packed up quickly and were gone by 3:00. It was a short day on the water but we had made the best of it. Billy, Alex, and I finished it out with Slurpee's to celebrate, before hitting the road for Richmond. Alex was super stoked to have caught his first Spadefish and first Sheepshead, and I was as happy as he was to have been there to help him get on the fish. It was a great day on the water with a couple of my favorite fishing buddies, and a memorable trip, everyone having accomplished catching a fish, whether Spade or Sheepshead, that was a new personal best.